iMAGE-CREATE student’s paper top of the most downloaded papers on the Economic Geology site in April 2023
An iMAGE-CREATE student’s paper was top of the most downloaded papers on the Economic Geology site in April 2023.
Marc Fassbender, a 4th year PhD. student at the University of Ottawa, published his paper entitled “Geochemical Signatures of Felsic Volcanic Rocks in Modern Oceanic Settings and Implications for Archean Greenstone Belts‘ in the March issue of Economic Geology, the SEG journal. Well done Marc!
Felsic volcanic rocks are abundant in ancient greenstone belts and important host rocks for volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits. About half of all VMS deposits are hosted by dacite or rhyolite, an association that reflects anomalous heat flow during rifting, partial melting of basaltic crust, and fractional crystallization in high-level magma chambers. For over 30 years, geochemical signatures of these rocks (e.g., F classification of Archean rhyolites) have been widely used to identify possible hosts for VMS deposits in ancient greenstone belts. However, comparisons with modern oceanic settings have been limited, owing to a lack of samples of felsic volcanic rocks from the sea floor. This is changing with increasing exploration of the oceans. In this study, we have compiled high-quality geochemical analyses of more than 2,200 unique samples of submarine felsic volcanic rocks (>60 wt % SiO2) from a wide range of settings, including mid-ocean ridges, ridge-hot-spot intersections, intraoceanic arc and back-arc spreading centers, and ocean islands. The compiled data show significant geochemical diversity spanning the full range of compositions of rhyolites found in ancient greenstone belts. This diversity is interpreted to reflect variations in crustal thickness, the presence or absence of slab-derived fluids (dry melting versus wet melting), and mantle anomalies. Highly variable melting conditions are thought to be related to short-lived microplate domains, such as those caused by diffuse spreading and multiple overlapping spreading centers. Systematic differences in the compositions of felsic volcanic rocks in the modern oceanic settings are revealed by a combination of principal components analysis, unsupervised hierarchical clustering, and supervised random forest classification of the compiled data. Dacites and rhyolites from midocean ridge settings have moderately depleted mantle signatures, whereas rocks from ridge-hot-spot intersections and ocean islands reflect enriched mantle sources. Felsic volcanic rocks from arc-back-arc systems have strongly depleted mantle signatures and well-known subduction-related chemistry (strong large ion lithophile element enrichment in combination with strong negative Nb-Ta anomalies and low heavy rare earth elements [HREEs]). This contrasts with felsic volcanic rocks in Archean greenstone belts, which show high field strength element and HREE enrichment (so-called FIIIb-type) due to a less depleted mantle, a lack of wet melting, and variable crustal contamination. The differences between modern and ancient volcanic rocks are interpreted to reflect the lower mantle temperatures, thinner crust, and subduction-related processes in present-day settings. We suggest that the abundance of FIIIb-type felsic volcanic rocks in Archean greenstone belts is related to buoyant microplate domains with thickened oceanic crust that were better preserved on emerging Archean cratons, whereas in post-Archean tectonic settings most of these rocks are subducted.